African lead-meeting here today in the midst of a general unease over growing Western and Eastern military involvement in the affairs of the continent and calls for a renewed commitment to the principles of nonalignment.
The presence of more than 35,000 Cuban troops in Angola and Ethiopia and the recent combined French-Belgian-American military rescue operation in Zaire have served to finally bring these issues to a head.
The other main reason for the unease affecting Africa today is the Western-supported, mixed African force recently sent to Zaire's troubled Shaba Province to maintain peace and security. This has sparked debate on the old but still unresolved problem of how Africa should go about building a pan-African army and under whose auspices it should be done.
More than 20 African heads of state, a larger number than usual, are expected to attend the meeting of the 49-member Organization of African Unity this year. Their primary tasks will be to debate now Africa can act collectively to limit foreign intervention and to revive the seemingly dying spirit of nonalignment.
Nonalignment is very much on the minds of African leaders because immediately after the meeting here, the foreign ministers of the world's nonaligned countries are to meet in Belgrade. Cuba is scheduled to host a meeting of heads of state of these countries next year and some African countries here, led by Somalia, are challenging Cuba's right to be included any longer in the nonaligned movement.
The African summit is being held in Khartoum's Chinese-built Friendship Hall on the banks of the Blue Nile near where it joins the White Nile.
African foreign ministers preparing the summit for the past week seem to have buried most of the boiling conflicts between Western- and Eastern-backed governments in a series of contradictory resolutions they will submit for approval to their heads of state later this week.
For example, one resolution calls upon member states "to put an end as soon as possible to any engagement which could be in contradiction with the nonaligned policy" of the organization's charter.
It also urges all members "to adhere strictly" to the principle of nonalignment to prevent Africa from being turned into "a theater of international confrontation and ambitious designs."
But another resolution states emphatically that the exercise of sovereignty gives any country the right to appeal to any other state for help if it deems its security or independence threatened.
Both Western-backed countries like Zaire and Chad, and Cuban-supported countries, like Ethiopia and Angola, were firmly in agreement on this principle.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers again reached no formal decision on the creation of a pan-African military force that might help reduce the need for Western or Cuban troops to intervene on the continent.
The ministers simply state in one of their resolutions that the African organization's defense commission should reactivated to study the establishment of a pan-African army.
But a consensus emerged of both western-backed and leftist African states that the Western-backed African peacekeeping force now stationed in Zaire's Shaba Province is not a "pan-African" force and was never intended to become one.
There was also agreement that the defense of Africa and its security and peace is "the sole responsibility of Africans." This seems to be a declaration as openly critical of Cuban and Soviet as of Western military activities on the continent.
Somalia attemtped Sunday to raise the issue of Cuba's right to the status of a nonaligned country. Somali Foreign Minister Abdirrahman Jama Barre charged that Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union "clearly contradicts the principles and objectives of our (nonaligned) movement . . . and carries with it the dangerous seeds of destruction of the movement unless chedked in time."
He said Cuba was no longer worthy of membership in the nonaligned organization. But Sudan, which, as host, is serving as chairman of the foreign ministers meeting, ruled the issue out of order here and it was dropped.
Still, the growing concern over the drift away from strict nonalignment by a number of African countries, some leaning toward the East and others the West, was made clear in a number of speeches.
For instance, Liberia's Foreign Minister Cecil Dennis said the movement faced the danger "of being converted into a forum wherein the interests of one bloc are advanced" and called for an African renewal of "our conviction in the efficacy of nonalignment."
Other contentious issues African leaders will deal with here include the Spanish Sahara, where the Polisario Liberation Movement is fighting to oust Mauritania and Morroco, who divided the mineral-rich territory between them two years ago.